Khoomei or Throat singing is one of the most representative traditional arts of Mongolia. Khoomei was originated when people started imitating the voice of nature and animals many thousand years ago, and around 19th century, Khoomei was first developed as an art. It is a style of singing in which a single performer produces a diversified harmony of multiple voices including continuous bass drone and a melody of harmonics. Khoomei is well practiced among people in western Mongolia and south-western Mongolia, and the current Khovd and Govi-Altai provinces are thought to be the place where Khoomei was originated. Khoomei has been regarded as a central element of Mongolian culture and remains a strong symbol of national and ethnic identity.
In Khoomei or throat singing, a singer can produce two or more notes simultaneously through specialized vocalization technique taking advantage of the throat's resonance characteristics. There are many different categories of Khoomei such as Uruuliin (labial), Tagnain (palatal), Khamriin (nasal), Bagalzuuriin Khooloin (glottal, throat), Tseejin Khondii Khevliin (chest cavity, stomach), turlegt or Khosmoljin (Khoomei combined with long song), Kharkhiraa (growling) and Isgeree (whistling).
Throat singing was traditionally performed on the occasion of ritual ceremonies, songs to express respect and praise for the nature, ancestors of the Mongolians and for great heroes. Today, it is reserved for special events and group activities such as horse races, archery and wrestling tournaments, large banquets and sacrificial rituals as well as folklore concerts. The timing and order of songs are often strictly regulated.
Mongolian throat singing was registered in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, as an art native to Mongolia in 2010. At its meeting in Nairobi, the UNESCO Council inscribed Mongolian Khoomii in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of mankind.
If you are interested in experiencing the unique throat singing performance or even take a lesson from professionals, book Mongolia for your next travel destination! A folklore concert or a lesson can be easily arranged to your Mongolia tour.
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